Likud planning mass rally in support of Netanyahu

Non-party members banned following ‘Post’ question on Naftali

Invitations to Netanyahu support rally, where the original invited the public and the latter restricts entrance to Likud members, August 7, 2017.  (photo credit: HANDOUT/ LIKUD)
Invitations to Netanyahu support rally, where the original invited the public and the latter restricts entrance to Likud members, August 7, 2017.
(photo credit: HANDOUT/ LIKUD)
Coalition chairman David Bitan vowed on Monday to bring 2,000 people on just two days’ notice to the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds for a massive rally he is organizing in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bitan did not succeed in drawing a large crowd to a counter-demonstration Saturday night that he organized against anti-corruption protesters near the Petah Tikva home of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
Some 150 Likud activists attended the demonstration, including just one minister, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, and only three other MKs.
Now Bitan is trying to organize another hastily planned event at a more convenient location to show support for Netanyahu and his legal battles after the prime minister’s chief of staff, Ari Harow, turned state’s witness against him. Bitan came to his Knesset office on Monday during the parliament’s summer recess and made call after call, urging people to attend and bring their friends.
“It is especially important now, when developments keep happening, to boost morale in the Likud and demonstrate that we are united behind the prime minister,” Bitan told The Jerusalem Post.
Bitan said that every Likud minister and MK who is not abroad will attend the rally.
But some ministers have threatened to boycott the event if they are not allowed to address the rally.
Advertisements for the rally initially said it was open to all Israeli citizens, which could have widened the turnout. But after the Post asked Bitan if Netanyahu’s former housekeeper and adversary in court, Meni Naftali, could attend, he immediately ordered event organizer Lior Harari to change the ads and only allow Likud members.
Harari confirmed the order from Bitan but said Netanyahu’s security guards also demanded that the rally not be open to the public. Harari said organizing the event was a challenge, noting that the Likud had not organized a rally on its own since 2006.
“It is crucial to show the world we support Netanyahu and that we will not let the Left bring him down,” Harari said. “This is a dramatic time for the party and the country.
When we lost the 1992 election, we got the Oslo process. If, God forbid, the government falls, we can be in the opposition, and we can have dramatic developments that will result in the Arabs getting our land.”
Harari said he was certain that both Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are not corrupt.
He revealed that Sara Netanyahu would also attend the rally.
But other Likud activists said they were not so sure. Central committee member Gil Shmueli said Netanyahu should suspend himself from the premiership while he fights his legal battles.
“The Likud is not a party of one man,” said Likud activist Moti Ohana. “What is all this hysteria about Netanyahu. Israel has legal systems to investigate and put on trial anyone suspected of violating the law, even if he is prime minister. If he did not break the law, he will not be convicted. If he broke the law, he should go home, and the Likud is a strong enough party to find a new leader.”
Netanyahu is also planning another rally on September 17, when he will be hosting his annual pre-Rosh Hashana toast at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah Hotel. Coincidentally, that is also the date when the police gag order on reporting details from the questioning of Harow will expire. But Harari said the event would not be postponed.
“News happens every day, and we can’t change everything based on what happens,” he said.